Writing Archive

Character & Setting; Figure & Background: A Painters Advice to Writers

Character and setting, figure and background. In literature and in art, they should work together to bring a concise picture into view.

Orphaned and Adopted Characters Are More Than “Convenient”

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Dear non-orphaned and/or adopted authors, The orphaned and adopted would appreciate your consideration the next time you take away a character's family just because it's interesting. Sincerely, an adoptee.

To Write a Page in Someone’s Shoes: On Translation and the Experience of Empathy

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I translate something almost every day. Five or six days a week, you can find me in the process of drafting, editing, or proofreading a translation, clicking back and forth between the original and my translation, comparing and contrasting.

Writ in Water: Millimeters to the End of the World

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How do you write about the end of the world? Or avoiding the apocalypse? The drying up of our water or our adaptation to living with less? How do you imagine—and make real—global superstorms and cities swallowed by the sea and the hottest summers on record?

On Music and Story

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I had a professor in college who maintained that writers write about artists in other disciplines—painters, musicians, sculptors, etc.—when they want to write about writers without actually writing about writers. There’s probably something to this.

The Problem of “Make It New,” the Help of Joy Williams

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At whatever point "Make it new" became a phrase so canonically removed from its creator that it began to reach the minds and ears of young writers years before they'd ever pick up Pound's poetry, a particular fine-edged damage was done.

MFA vs. PhD

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Last year, at 28, I attended my first writer’s conference in Virginia and a fiction workshop. I felt like a wallflower who’d only just realized all the other flowers had long ago left the wall in pursuit of something deemed extremely useful in the American literary community—the MFA.

Waiting for Hopper

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Woman in the Sun is located in the large hall next to the elevators on the sixth floor of the new Whitney Museum. The good thing is that most people go straight for the exhibition so that the space in front of the painting isn’t crowded.

Phonesthesia: Poetic Sound and Diegetic Noise

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Can poetry, through its command of sound, represent physical spaces, objects, and movement? Can one describe something—a setting, a object, a person—and also synesthetically render it for the reader?

Lilies in the Yard: On Getting Away

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I reread Sylvia Plath this summer on a fairly remote island off Ireland’s Connemara coast. Plath had been there once in September of 1962. She and Ted Hughes accepted an invitation from the Irish poet, Richard Murphy, to visit him at his home in the country’s heralded west.